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FCC's Newest Ruling Will Allow Wireless Devices to Operate on the Same Frequency as Medical Monitors

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In early August, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a rule that will allow unlicensed devices (such as bluetooth technologies, mobile phones and garage door openers) to operate on the same frequency as heart and fetal monitors used by hospitals. This will likely prevent the monitors from functioning properly.

To learn more about electronic interference between common electronics and medical implants, please check out:

To learn more about the FCC's new ruling and medical monitoring equipment, please read on here: FCC OKs Use of Unlicensed Devices on Patient Monitoring Frequency

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iHealthBeat, August 7, 2015

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a rule that will allow unlicensed devices to operate on the same frequency as hospitals' remote patient monitoring systems, FierceHealthIT reports.


In 2000, FCC allocated the unoccupied television airwave Channel 37 exclusively for medical monitoring equipment after a 1998 incident in which a TV broadcaster interfered with a hospital's low-powered heart monitors. Prior to 2000, hospitals had used other channels to operate unlicensed wireless patient-monitoring devices (iHealthBeat, 5/14/08).

The channel is used by devices that measure patients' vital signs and other important health metrics.

Rule Details

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According to FierceHealthIT, FCC approved the rules allowing unlicensed devices -- such as Bluetooth technologies, garage door openers and wireless phones -- to operate on Channel 37 with the expectation that so-called TV "white space" frequencies are likely to become more limited.

In the vote, FCC said that unlicensed devices will not interfere with hospital monitoring technologies that use Channel 37 (FierceHealthIT, 8/6).

However, to ease some stakeholders' security concerns, FCC added certain protections for providers that use the frequency.

Specifically, FCC said it will automatically extend protection zones around hospitals that file waiver requests. The expansion would be up to three times the normal 380-meter buffer zone (Allen et al., "Morning eHealth," Politico, 8/7).

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Katie Singer works on public policy with the Electromagnetic Radiation Policy Institute. A medical journalist, her books include The Garden of Fertility; Honoring Our Cycles, and An Electronic Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits. 

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